|Publication number||US7996232 B2|
|Application number||US 12/388,733|
|Publication date||9 Aug 2011|
|Filing date||19 Feb 2009|
|Priority date||3 Dec 2001|
|Also published as||DE102010000431A1, US20090299752|
|Publication number||12388733, 388733, US 7996232 B2, US 7996232B2, US-B2-7996232, US7996232 B2, US7996232B2|
|Inventors||Arturo A. Rodriguez, David A. Sedacca, Albert Garcia|
|Original Assignee||Rodriguez Arturo A, Sedacca David A, Albert Garcia|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (32), Non-Patent Citations (5), Referenced by (4), Classifications (11), Legal Events (4)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
This application is a continuation of U.S. Ser. No. 11/956,675, filed Dec. 14, 2007, which is a continuation of U.S. Ser. No. 11/032,438, filed Jan. 10, 2005 now U.S. Pat. No. 7,321,857, which is a continuation of U.S. Ser. No. 10/010,497, filed Dec. 3, 2001, now U.S. Pat. No. 6,889,191, issued May 3, 2005, all of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety.
This invention relates in general to the field of electronics, and more particularly, to speech recognition activated controls for electronics such as home communication terminals.
Historically, television services have been comprised of analog broadcast audio and video signals. Cable television systems now receive broadcasts and retransmit them with other programming to users over land-line networks, typically comprising fiber optic cable And/or coaxial cable. With the recent advent of digital transmission technology, cable television systems are now capable of providing much more than the traditional analog broadcast video. For instance, two-way and advanced one-way communications between a subscriber and a cable system headend are now possible.
In implementing enhanced programming, the home communication terminal (“HCT”), otherwise known as the set top box, has become an important computing device for accessing video services and navigating a subscriber through a maze of available services. In addition to supporting traditional analog broadcast video functionality, digital HCTs (or “DHCTs”) now also support an increasing number of services which employ digital two-way communications, such as video-on-demand, email and web-browsing. These are all in addition to the host of other television services which are increasingly being demanded by consumers, examples of which include audio and audio/visual programming, advanced navigation controls, impulse pay-per-view technology, and on-line commerce.
With the addition of interactive services and the increased bandwidth and the emergence of bi-directional communication capabilities available through a digital television system, there is a need to provide subscribers new methods of controlling DHCT capabilities and accessing the channels and/or services with relative ease. Currently, controlling the DHCT to access these services requires familiarization and use of input devices such as an infrared wireless remote control or a wired or wireless keyboard. Conventional remote control systems for audio and video equipment normally comprise a battery-powered, hand-held, transmitter which encodes and transmits selected keyboard information and generates the necessary control signals for operating the selected functions of the user's equipment. Most such systems employ a transmission system operable in the infrared region of the spectrum for transmitting the control data. Such a device allows one to operate the equipment from a distance, without connecting wires. The drawback with such communication equipment is that subscribers need to familiarize themselves with increasingly complicated remote control devices to control and select the myriad of services and programming available. Furthermore, as operators of cable television systems continue to add services and applications, problems also exist in both making the subscriber aware of and also in providing quick access to the new services and channels.
Voice activated remote controls for controlling televisions, video cassette recorders, stereo equipment, and cable and satellite receivers are well known. There, voice activated remotes typically recognize a limited number of voice commands from a limited number of users. Using the voice activated remote, users can select a hands free or manual operation mode. The device performs speech recognition and associated DSP processing in the remote control device, and transmits signals representing the function to the device to which it controls. However, a drawback with such a device is that it is limited in the number of commands that may be processed, and by the number of users that can use the device.
In one embodiment, transport stream output by multiplexer 910 may undergo adaptation to a network layer such internet protocol (IP) at the DSP 904 or multiplexer 910 prior to error correction and modulation 912 wherein the error correction and modulation 912 is performed to fulfill the physical layer in part. Furthermore, packets output by network layer adaptation may further undergo adaptation to a link layer, such as Ethernet, for framing.
The present invention is a method, apparatus and system for receiving speech commands at a remote control device, digitizing those speech commands, and transmitting the digitized speech commands to a DCHT, at which the speech commands may be interpreted so as to allow the remote control user to control the DHCT. Because speech recognition is performed at the DHCT, rather than at the remote control device, the remote control device does not have to interpret and transmit infrared signals that represent user commands. This simplifies the processing and voice recognition capabilities required by the remote control device. Additionally, because the DHCT processes the digitized voice received from the remote control device, the DHCT can negate the effect of sounds, such as television sounds, produced by the DHCT and captured by the microphone on the remote control device. This results in a greater capability of the DHCT to interpret user commands.
According to one embodiment of the present invention there is disclosed a method of using voice activated commands to instruct electronic equipment to perform one or more functions. The method includes receiving at a remote control device speech representing a user command, digitizing the speech at the remote control device, and compressing the digitized speech. The method further includes transmitting the compressed digitized speech wirelessly to the electronic equipment, receiving the compressed digitized speech at the electronic equipment, decompressing the digitized speech, and performing at the electronic equipment a function based upon a stored instruction associated with the digitized speech.
According to one aspect of the present invention, receiving at a remote control device speech representing a user command includes receiving at a remote control device user instructions and unwanted ambient audio. According to another aspect of the present invention, transmitting the compressed digitized speech wirelessly includes transmitting the compressed digitized speech over a wireless data channel or a wireless media channel. Additionally, transmitting the compressed digitized can include transmitting the digitized speech via a transmission antenna, and receiving the compressed digitized speech comprises receiving the compressed digitized speech via a receiver antenna.
According to another aspect of the present invention, the method further includes the step of comparing at least a portion of the decompressed digitized speech to a dictionary of speech segments, where the dictionary of speech segments are pre-programmed by a user. The method can also include the step of subtracting the unwanted ambient audio from the decompressed digitized speech. The step of subtracting the unwanted ambient audio from the decompressed digitized speech can also occur before the at least a portion of the digitized speech is compared to the dictionary of speech segments. According to one aspect of the invention, the unwanted ambient audio is generated by the electronic equipment, and may be emitted by a speaker associated with a television set.
According to yet another embodiment of the present invention the method further includes the step of storing the unwanted ambient audio in the electronic equipment. Additionally, the method may also include the step of storing a time-shifted version of the unwanted ambient audio in the electronic equipment. Moreover, according to the present invention, the time-shifted version of the unwanted ambient audio can be matched with the unwanted ambient audio generated by the electronic equipment, and the unwanted ambient audio may be subtracted the unwanted ambient audio from the decompressed digitized speech.
According to yet another aspect of the present invention, the method further includes the step of identifying a dictionary speech segment associated with at least a portion of the decompressed digitized speech. Furthermore, the method may include the step of graphically displaying or audibly identifying the function associated with at least one dictionary speech segment. According to another aspect of the invention, comparing at least a portion of the decompressed digitized speech to a dictionary of speech segments further includes producing a matching score representing the likelihood of a match between the at least one portion of the decompressed digitized speech and at least one speech segment in the dictionary of speech segments.
According to a further aspect of the present invention, the electronic equipment is a digital home communication terminal, such as a cable television digital home communication terminal or a satellite digital home communication terminal. According to one aspect of the invention, the compressed digitized speech controls an electronic program guide navigation of the electronic equipment, which is associated with a television and the electronic program guide navigation is presentable on the television. The decompressed digital speech can also control an electronic program guide navigation of the electronic equipment. Additionally, the method can include the step of querying a user for said speech representing a user command.
According to another embodiment of the present invention, there is disclosed a remote control apparatus that receives voice activated commands. The remote control apparatus of the present invention includes a first microphone and an enable microphone button, wherein the at least one enable microphone button activates the first microphone such that the first microphone can receive one or more inputs. The remote control apparatus additionally includes at least one processor for digitizing inputs received at the first microphone, and at least one transmitter for wirelessly transmitting the digitized inputs to a device associated with the remote control apparatus.
According to one aspect of the present invention, the one or more inputs comprise voice commands. According to another aspect of the invention, the remote control apparatus also includes a plurality of function keys. Additionally, the one or more inputs include the pressing of at least of the plurality of function keys in combination with one or more voice commands. Furthermore, according to one aspect of the present invention, at least one function key of the plurality of function keys is selected from the group consisting of a toggle switch, a button, and a spring-force level switch.
According to yet another aspect of the present invention, the remote control apparatus further includes at least one standby command that identifies when the at least one enable microphone button is enabled. The remote control apparatus can also include a digital signal filter, such as a band pass filter, which it operative to reduce ambient noise received by the first microphone. Additionally, according to one aspect of the present invention the at least one processor of the remote control apparatus is operative to digitize one or more inputs received by the second microphone. According to yet another aspect of the invention, the remote control apparatus further includes a second microphone, where the second microphone is operative to assist in canceling noise received by the first microphone. Moreover the remote control apparatus can further include at least one speech encoder that encodes speech received at the first microphone when the speech is below a threshold value determined by the at least one processor.
According to yet another embodiment of the present invention, there is disclosed a home communication terminal that receives voice activated commands and, based upon the voice activated commands, instructs electronic equipment to perform one or more functions. The home communication terminal includes a receiver, which receives encoded digitized signals from at least one remote device, where the encoded digitized signals include one or more signals representing at least one voice activated command. The home communication terminal also includes at least one speech decoder, which decodes the encoded digitized signals, at least one memory, which stores at least a portion of the decoded digitized signals, and at least one audio buffer, for storing audio signals broadcasted by a device in electrical communication with the receiver. Additionally, the home communication terminal of the present invention includes at least one processor, for eliminating stored audio signals from the decoded digitized signals, such that the resulting decoded digitized signals do not contain audio signals broadcasted by the device in electrical communication with the receiver, and at least one comparison component, where the at least one comparison component matches at least a portion of the resulting decoded digital signals to one or more commands representing at least one function the home communication terminal is operative to perform.
According to one aspect of the present invention the encoded digitized signals received by the home communication terminal include unwanted signals. According to another aspect of the present invention the home communication terminal further includes at least one digital signal filter operative to reduce the unwanted signals in the decoded digitized signals. According to yet another aspect of the invention the home communication terminal of the present invention further includes an infrared receiver that receives infrared commands transmitted from the at least one remote device. Additionally, the home communication terminal may also be associated with an Internet Protocol address.
According to a further aspect of the present invention the home communication terminal includes an electronic program guide application controllable by the at least one remote device via the at least one voice activated command. The at least one memory can include a dictionary of terms, wherein each term is associated with the one or more commands representing the at least on function the home communication terminal is operative to perform. According to a further aspect of the invention, the home communication terminal includes a training procedure application, where the dictionary of terms is constructed during a training procedure effected by the processor in conjunction with a training procedure application. Additionally, each term in the dictionary of terms may be associated with one or more commands representing a navigation task the home communication terminal is operative to perform.
According to yet another aspect of the present invention, the training procedure application averages multiple versions of user-generated voice commands input during the training procedure. The training procedure application also calculates the time delay between audio signals broadcasted by a device in electrical communication with the receiver and at least some of the unwanted signals. The home communication terminal can also include a graphical user interface application that operates in conjunction with the processor to display the one or more commands representing at least one function the home communication terminal is operative to perform.
According to another embodiment of the invention the home communication terminal includes a timer that is operative to time-match the audio signals generated by the device in electrical communication with the receiver with the encoded digitized signals received by the receiver. The home communication terminal may also include at least one microphone for receiving audio signals.
Many objects, features and advantages of the present invention will become apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art upon examination of the following drawings and detailed description.
Having thus described the invention in general terms, reference will now be made to the accompanying drawings, which are not necessarily drawn to scale, and wherein:
The present invention now will be described more fully hereinafter with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which preferred embodiments of the invention are shown. This invention may, however, be embodied in many different forms and should not be construed as limited to the embodiments set forth herein; rather, these embodiments are provided so that this disclosure will be thorough and complete, and will fully convey the scope of the invention to those skilled in the art. Like numbers refer to like elements throughout.
The speech recognition control apparatuses, methods and systems of the present invention are described herein with reference to a digital home communication terminal used to receive services provided from a digital broadband system. However, it should be appreciated by those of skill in the art that the apparatuses, methods and systems of the present invention may be used to in a variety of systems and components. For instance, the present invention may be used to control computers, televisions, satellite receivers, stereo equipment, remote control devices, and any other devices employing wired or wireless means of input, such as a remote control, mouse, or keyboard. Therefore, the description of the digital broadband delivery system and digital home communication terminal is intended to be an illustrative and non-limiting embodiment. First, a digital broadband delivery system (DBDS), DBDS transmission channels, and DHCT are described in detail with reference to
I. Digital Broadband Delivery System
The DBDS 10 also provides the interfaces, network control, transport control, session control, and servers to establish on-demand session-based bi-directional communication service between a particular remote destination and a DHCT user for delivering media from the particular remote destination to the DHCT user and input information from the DHCT user to the particular remote destination. A remote destination during a session of a bi-directional communication service may comprise a remote personal destination such as a friend or a remote vendor that offers a bi-directional communication service for a purchasable period of time in which a viewer communicates real-time with the vendor on a personal basis. In either case, dedicated DBDS 10 resources are allocated to fulfill individualized bi-directional communication over a purchasable period.
As shown in
The Content Provider 18 represents one or more providers of content, such as video channels, music channels, data channels, video services, audio services and data services. For example, according to one aspect of the invention, the Content Provider 18 could comprise an Electronic Program Guide (EPG) data provider which acts as a data service provider. According to another aspect of the invention, the Content Provider 18 could represent an Internet Service Provider (ISP) providing data to the system to enable subscribers web access or web-enhanced video via the subscriber's television set. The Content Provider 18 transmits the content to a headend 26 for further transmission to subscribers downstream in the network. Also in communication with the headend 26 is a Network Operation Center (NOC) 22, which is an external management center interfaced with the DBDS 10 to allow for the remote operation of the system.
Content provided by the Content Provider 18 is communicated by the Content Provider 18 to one or more headends 26. From those headends 26 the content is then communicated to the core network 30 of hubs 34 and onto a plurality of Hybrid/Fiber Coax (HFC) Access Networks (only one HFC Access Network 38 is illustrated). The HFC Access Network 38 typically comprises a plurality of HFC nodes 42, each which may service a local geographical area. The content provided from the Content Provider 18 is transmitted through the headend 26, hub 34 and HFC Access Network 38 downstream to one or more taps 46 from each one of the HFC nodes 42 of the HFC Access Network 38. The hub 34 connects to the HFC node 42 through the fiber portion of the HFC Access Network 38. Usually, the HFC node 42 connects to a subscriber's DHCT 14 through coaxial cable in a logical tree configuration, which is where the optical-to-electrical and electrical-to-optical conversions of the HFC network take place. From the HFC node 42 a coaxial drop connects the tap 46 to a Network Interface Units (NIU) 52, which is a network demarcation point physically located on the side of the subscribers' home. The NIU 52 provides a transparent interface between the HFC node 42 and the subscribers' internal wiring. Coaxial cables are preferred in this part of the system because the electrical signals can be easily repeated with RF amplifiers. Typically, six amplifiers or less are located in series between the HFC node 42 and the subscribers' DHCTs 14. As DBDSs are well known to those of skill in the art, further description of the DBDS 10 of
II. DBDS Channels
Referring again to
Like the ATCs 60, the DTCs 64, 68, 72 each occupy 6 MHz of the RF spectrum. However, the DTCs 64, 68, 72 are digital channels consisting of 64- or 256-Quadrature Amplitude Modulated (QAM) digital signals formatted as MPEG-2 transport streams, allocated in a separate frequency range. As will be described in more detail below, the MPEG-2 transport stream enables transmission of a plurality of DTC channel types over each 6 MHz RF spacing, as compared to a 6 MHz ATC. The three types of digital transport channels illustrated in
MPEG-2 transport may be used to multiplex video, audio, and data in each of these Digital Transmission Channels (DTCs). However, because MPEG-2 transport stream multiplex video, audio, and data to be placed into the same stream, the DTCs do not necessarily have to be allocated in separate 6 MHz RF frequencies, unlike ATCs 60. On the other hand, each DTC is capable of carrying multiple broadcast digital video programs, multiple cycling data carousels containing broadcast data, and data requested on-demand by the subscriber. Data is formatted, such as in Internet Protocol (IP), mapped into MPEG-2 packets, and inserted into the multiplexed MPEG-2 transport stream. According to one aspect of the invention, encryption can be applied to the data stream for security so that the data, such as EPG data, may be received only by authorized DHCTs. For instance, one individual subscriber may be authorized to receive minimal set of EPG data, while others may be authorized additional incremental amounts of EPG data (for example, EPG data for future days) according to a tiered service fee and/or depending on the amount of memory in the DHCT. Therefore, additional subscribers in the same local area not authorized to receive EPG data will not.
Each 6 MHz RF spacing assigned as a digital transmission channel can carry the video and audio streams of the programs of multiple television (TV) stations, as well as media and data that is not necessarily related to those TV programs or TV channels, as compared to one TV channel broadcast over one ATC 60 that consumes the entire 6 MHz. The digital data is inserted into MPEG transport streams carried through each 6 MHz channel assigned for digital transmission, and then de-multiplexed at the subscribers' DHCT so that multiple sets of data can be produced within each tuned 6 MHz frequency span.
Also shown in
A DHCT 14 is typically situated within the residence or business of a subscriber. It may be integrated into a device that has a display 441, such as a television set, or it may be a stand-alone unit that couples to an external display 441, such as a display included with a computer or a television that processes media transported in television signals for presentation or playback to a subscriber (user of the DHCT 14). The DHCT 14 preferably comprises a communications interface 442 for receiving the RF signals, which can include media such as video, audio, graphical and data information, from the tap 46 and for providing any reverse information to the tap 46 for transmission back to the headend 26. The DHCT 14 further includes a processor 444, such as a central processing unit or a digital sound processor, for controlling operations of the DHCT 14, and a video output port, such as an RF output system 448, for driving the display 441. The DHCT 14 also includes a tuner system 445 for tuning to a particular television channel to be displayed and for sending and receiving data corresponding to various types of media from the headend 26. The tuner system 445 includes, in one implementation, an out-of-band tuner (OOB) for bi-directional quadrature phase shift keying (QPSK) data communication and a quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM) tuner for receiving television signals. The OOB is coupled with an upstream transmitter to enable the DHCT 14 to interface with the network so that the DHCT 14 can provide upstream data to the network, for example via the QPSK or QAM channels. This allows a subscriber to interact with the network to request data from services such as program guide data and, if necessary, encryption can be added to the OOB channels to provide privacy. Additionally, the DHCT 14 includes a receiver 446 for receiving externally generated information, such as user inputs or commands for other devices. The DHCT 14 may also include one or more wireless or wired communication interfaces, also called ports, for receiving and/or transmitting data to other devices. For instance, the DHCT 14 may feature USB (Universal Serial Bus) (for connection to a USB camera or microphone), Ethernet (for connection to a computer), IEEE-1394 (for connection to media devices in an entertainment center), serial, and/or parallel ports. The receiver 446 and/or ports receive user inputs, which may be received from buttons or keys located on the DHCT 14 or by a remote control device 480 that includes user-actuated buttons. According to one illustrative example, the DHCT 14 may feature USB or IEEE-1394 for connection of an infrared wireless remote control 480 or a wired or wireless keyboard, a camcorder with an integrated microphone, or to a video camera and a separate microphone. The methods and apparatuses by which a user communicates with the DHCT 14 is described in greater detail with respect to
Technology for digitizing and compressing/decompressing video and speech signals is well-known in the art. In a preferred embodiment, the DHCT 14 of the present invention has the capability to simultaneously decompress and reconstruct video, audio, graphics and textual data that may, for example, correspond to a service such as an interactive program guide. This permits the DHCT 14 to store video and audio in memory in real-time, to scale down the spatial resolution of the video pictures, as necessary, and to composite and display a graphical user interface (GUI) presentation of the video with respective graphical and textual data while simultaneously playing the audio that corresponds to the video. The same process applies in reverse and the DHCT 14 can, for example, digitize and compress pictures from a camera for upstream transmission. Referring again to the DHCT 14 illustrated in
The flash memory 451 also contains a platform library 456. The platform library 456 is a collection of functions useful to applications, such as a timer manager, compression manager (for compressing text, video and/or audio), database manager, string managers, and other utilities (not illustrated). As shown in
Traditional interactive program guides (IPG), Watch TV 462, and pay-per-view (PPV) are examples of resident applications in flash memory 451. An IPG displays a program guide to the user and populates the guide with program data for selection, watch TV 462 enables a user to simply “watch television”, and PPV enables viewing of premium television services. Because these applications are in flash memory 451, each remains available to the user and does not need to be downloaded each time the DHCT 14 initializes.
Applications stored in the RAM 452 may be loaded when the DHCT 14 initializes or downloaded to the DHCT 14 upon a user-initiated command using an input device such as the remote control device 480. In an illustrative example, RAM memory 452 may contain a video-on-demand application (VOD) 463, an e-mail application 465, a bi-directional services program guide client application 477 and a digital music application. Additionally, RAM memory 452 could also contain a calendar and/or a calculator application. It will be obvious to one with ordinary skill in the art that these applications are illustrative and merely serve as examples of possible embodiments of the invention.
These applications as well as others provided by a cable system operator, are top level software entities on the network for providing services to the user. In one implementation, all applications executing on the DHCT 14 work with the navigator 455 by abiding by several guidelines. For example, an application should first utilize and implement the SAM 457 for provisioning, activation, and suspension of services. Second, an application should share DHCT 14 resources with other applications and abide by the resource management policies of the SAM 457, the operating system 453, and the DHCT 14. Third, an application should handle all situations where resources are unavailable without navigator 455 intervention. Fourth, when an application loses service authorization while providing a service, an application should suspend the service gracefully. The navigator 455 will reactivate an individual service application when it later becomes authorized. Finally, an application should be configured so it does not respond to input commands reserved for the navigator. For instance, as a non-limiting example, when user input commands are entered via a wireless remote control device 480 or keyboard, the application may be configured so it does not have access to certain user input keys that are reserved by the navigator 455 (i.e., power, channel +/−, volume +/−, etc.). Without limitation to the foregoing, in some circumstances certain applications during the course of program execution may reach a machine-state in which input keys that would ordinarily be reserved may be employed for input by the application but only during that particular machine-state. For instance, an application may display a user interface that specifically requests input or selection from the user in which one or more of the reserved keys are used momentarily during that machine-state.
Alternatively, upstream data transmission can be effected via a QAM channel with a QAM transmitter (not illustrated) in DHCT 14 and a QAM receiver in headend 26. According to yet another alternative embodiment, a telephone modem (not shown) can be located in the DHCT 14 and utilized for upstream data transmission, and a headend 26 or hub 12 or other component located upstream in the subscriber network television system may receive data from a telephone network coupled to a telephone modem and can route the upstream data to a destination internal or external to the subscriber network television system.
The DHCT 14 includes a demultiplexing system 543 comprising functionality for QAM demodulation, forward error correction (FEC), transport demultiplexing, decryption, and parsing, as is well known in the art, to counter the effect of signal processing of broadcast media and data in the subscriber network television system. Transport demultiplexing preferably includes MPEG-2 transport demultiplexing. The demultiplexing system 543 is in communication with communication interface 442, tuner system 445 and processor 444 and effects reception of compressed video streams, compressed audio streams, and compressed data streams corresponding to a selected or requested service to be separated from other programs and/or streams transported in the tuned transmission channel and to be presented to the subscriber. The DHCT 14 also includes a media engine 580 configured with elements for driving the display 441, in cooperation with output system 448, and the media engine 580 also includes decoding circuitry 598 to decode compressed digital video, digital channel audio, digital data and analog channel audio.
The DHCT 14 shown in
The DHCT 14 also includes a clock 582 and timers 590 that enable computation of the time relationship between its internal clock and the clock specified by the received session's streams. By reading and interpreting the clock and time stamps specifications intrinsic in the session's streams (for example, as provisioned in MPEG-2), or as communicated by the head end 26 via the out of band pathway or channel, the DHCT 14 can effect an output for the media and/or information received from the remote location as a synchronized presentation to the user that includes reconstructed video pictures, the reconstructed digital audio samples, and supplementary information that emanated from the remote location.
As noted above, under the auspices of the real-time operating system 453 (
IV. Remote Control Device
As illustrated in
The remote control device 480 also includes at least one microphone 891 for receiving speech and sounds, such as voice-activated controls. Additionally, the remote control device 480 may include one or more switches or buttons (not illustrated) associated with the microphone 891 that allow the user to turn the microphone on or off, or to adjust the sensitivity of the microphone, as is common in conventional microcassette voice recorders. It will be appreciated that it is advantageous that the microphone sensitivity be set relatively low such that ambient noise from sources other than the user (e.g., television sound) does not significantly impact the voice controls received from the user. Additionally, a second microphone acting as a noise-canceling microphone in the remote control device 480 can provide some attenuation of ambient noise while transducing the desired voice commands. Such microphones are commonly used in consumer electronic devices such as lightweight telephone headsets, cellphones, and computer microphone accessories. The microphone 891 allows a user to send voice-activated commands to the DHCT to control navigation through menus without requiring to enter a sequence of one or more key strokes or button depressions on the remote control device 480. For instance, a user may select a program guide or particular television channel by simply saying “Program Guide” or “Channel 160” into the microphone 891.
Controlling the DHCT 14 via voice-activated commands simplifies the process of entering input for certain commands that would typically require navigation through a maze of interactive menus presented to the user. A single voice-activated command spoken by user into microphone 891 can effect the DHCT 14 to enter a machine-state that would ordinarily require a sequence of a plurality of key presses through the navigation of a sequence of one or more menus presented in the graphical user interface (GUI) on the display 441. As explained below, the user can customize voice-activated commands through a set-up training procedure in which voice-activated commands are associated with a specific command or with a specific sequence of commands. Conveniently, a user speaking into microphone 891 in the remote control device 480 can do so without unnecessarily having to look and search on remote control device 480 for the appropriate key to press.
According to one embodiment of the invention, remote control device 480 has a dedicated enable microphone button or key 893, that is required to be pressed by the user during the complete duration of time that the user is entering voice-activated commands via microphone 891. Upon release of the enable microphone key 893, the digital signal processing capability of the remote control device 480 is disabled or deactivated. Alternatively, the enable microphone key 893 can also be a switch that is required to be pushed or set to an enable position. In yet another embodiment, the enable microphone button 893 can operate as a functional toggle that activates or deactivates the microphone each time it is pressed. The microphone may also be used in conjunction with one or more speakers on the remote (not illustrated), DHCT, or device to which the DCHT is in communication with, such that the user may be prompted to speak into the remote. For instance, a user may be instructed to speak via a graphical user interface. Furthermore, the microphone 891 may be used by the user in conjunction with one or more buttons on the remote control device 480, such that a combination of speech and buttons is used to transmit controls to the DCHT or receiving device. Many alternative methods of providing user input may be used including a remote control device with different buttons and/or button layouts, a keyboard device similarly with one or more microphones, a voice activated device, etc. The remote control also includes a wireless transmitter 892 and/or transceiver transmitting control signals to the DHCT. The transmitter 892 may be a radio frequency (RF) or infrared transmitter (IR), as are well known in the art.
Also illustrated in
In an alternate embodiment, digital speech filter 906 effects filtering for retention of the band-pass of the radio frequency (RF) spectrum corresponding to a human's speech signal, accentuating the filtering out of spectra where human speech is not found. The resulting filtered signal is then encoded by speech encoder engine 908 as explained above. In yet another embodiment, digital speech filter 906 functions as a filter to filter in spectrum corresponding to a human's speech signal and to filter out ambient noise.
After filtering is performed by the digital speech filter 906, the digital speech signals are received at a speech encoder engine 908 which implements compression of the digitized speech samples presented at its input and outputs a compressed digitized speech stream in compliance to a specified method or algorithm, such as an International Telecommunications Union (ITU) standard G.723 (“Dual rate speech codec for multimedia communications transmitting at 6.3 or 5.3 kbit/s”). In one embodiment the DSP 902 may perform the compression of the digitized speech signal in part or in full or in cooperation and communication with speech encoder engine 908. The speech encoder engine 908 may further perform in full or in part packetization of the compressed stream as well as include synchronization information in the packetized stream, as need be, in compliance to a designated format and/or protocol. Alternatively, the DSP 904 may perform packetization of the compressed stream produced by speech encoder engine 908 as well as include synchronization information, solely or in part in communication with speech encoder engine 908. Referring again to
According to one aspect of the invention, a set of control commands is provisioned by the fulfillment of the communication protocol stack during transmission and reception for effective and reliable communication. In
Some of the control commands perform handshaking during a set-up or initialization stage or on a periodic basis to support sustenance of communication. As a non-limiting example, additional control commands transmitted in the control stream include: start, stop, standby and no active-speech frame. The start and stop commands serve as indicators to demarcate a voice-activated command spoken by the user into microphone 891 while depressing the enable microphone button, key or switch 893. The standby command transmitted by transmitter 892 serves to indicate to the receiver 924 during regular operation that there is no active speech transmission. Hence, during standby periods the transmitted transport stream comprises of a control stream without a compressed speech stream and thus the speech encoder 908 is not active. The standby command explicitly identifies that enable microphone button 893 is not depressed. In an alternate embodiment, standby command is only transmitted if the enable microphone button 893 is not depressed for a period of time longer than a predetermined threshold programmed into DSP 904 in communication with memory 902.
The “no active-speech frame” command is transmitted while the user holds down enable microphone button 893 during gaps between spoken words by user. It simplifies segmentation operation in the audio decoding loop, as explained below. Furthermore, it advantageously reduces processing of information while the transmitter and receiver are engaged in active communication. The no active-speech frame command is generated by DSP 904 by detecting the energy of audio samples output by A/D converter 900 preferably after BPF filer 906 performs filtering to retain the band-pass of the radio frequency (RF) spectrum corresponding to a human's speech signal. When the user is not speaking into microphone 891, the output produced by digital speech filter 906 will exhibit a significantly reduction or absence of energy. DSP 904 monitors and detects such condition and outputs a corresponding “no active-speech frame” for the period corresponding to the absence of speech. For instance, as a non-limiting example, the DSP 904 may detect when the amplitude (or value) of each sample in a contiguous sequence of filtered audio samples produced by the digital speech filter 906 is below a threshold value. Thus if a plurality contiguous audio samples is greater than a certain threshold, threshold 2, and each of the samples have amplitude less than threshold 1, a no active-speech frame command is generated with start time corresponding to the first sample in the sequence of samples. The no active-speech frame is terminated upon the detection of an audio sample with amplitude over threshold 2. Speech encoder 908 does not encode nor produce an encoded speech stream throughout the duration of a “no active-speech frame” control command.
According to one embodiment of the invention, wireless communication between the remote control device 480 and the DHCT is in accordance with IEEE 802.11b, and the remote control is assigned an internet protocol (IP) address by or through DHCT 14 under the auspices of the network to which DHCT 14 is connected. Thus, where the DHCT is part of a cable television network, the remote control device 480 may be assigned an IP address by or through DHCT 14 under the auspices of the Cable Television Network illustrated in
Outputs presented in
In an alternate embodiment (R/W) memory 922 may be a portion of RAM 452 in system memory 449 or in media memory 560. In yet another embodiment, (R/W) memory 922 may be a separate memory, distinct from media memory 560 and RAM 452, and localized within the wireless channel receiver However, the memory is preferably included within system memory 449 in the DHCT 14. It should be appreciated that, but for the memory 922 as aforementioned, the speech reception components within the DHCT 14 described immediately are preferably located within the receiver 446 component of the DHCT 14 illustrated in
As illustrated in
According to one embodiment, the stored speech streams are passed through a band pass filter 933 to pass the human speech part of the RF spectrum while minimizing, to the greatest extent possible, unwanted past program audio picked up by the subscriber's microphone 891. Filtering implemented by band pass filter 933 preferably exercises filtering parameters in accordance of knowledge of filtering parameters employed in band pass filter 906 in remote control device 480 to fulfill a complementary overall optimized filtering operation. Knowledge of filtering performed by band pass filter 906 in remote control device 480 also avoids excessive filtering that could potentially degrade the desired digitized speech signal. The filtered digital speech streams are then stored in memory 949 such that they can be processed in the next stage in the audio processing loop 927. It will be appreciated that although the band pass filter 933 is included in the audio processing loop 927 illustrated in
Generally, to eliminate undesirable sound from the decoded speech, a second audio buffer is maintained in the DHCT's memory 922 that retains the audio signal corresponding to a tuned television channel's program audio played by the DHCT 14 in the immediate past. The second audio buffer is hereafter referred to as the outgoing audio buffer. According to one aspect of the invention, the outgoing audio buffer retains audio samples occurring a few milliseconds in the immediate past. However, this time is adjustable under program control, and thus, the amount of memory required for outgoing audio buffer may increase in relation to the length of time audio samples are retained for the played program audio.
For pragmatic reasons, the amount of memory allocated for the outgoing audio buffer and the incoming audio buffer are fixed respectively to a size larger than the expected worst-case consumption. The worst case consumption size for each is determined according to a number of factors, including the longest voice activation command expected by a user and the processing throughput capabilities in audio processing loop 927. The longest voice activation command expected as input from a user is determined during the training or set-up procedure explained in detail below. During the training or set-up procedure, conducted a priori, the user trains the DHCT 14 to recognize user's speech and associate voice commands with one or more desired actions.
Similar to the incoming audio buffer, the outgoing audio buffer is preferably a revolving or circular buffer retaining an amount of program audio signal equal to an interval of time from the present to an extent of the immediate past, such that the buffer retains a time interval's worth of past program audio samples. An example of a circular buffer is the Delay Buffer 1 in the memory 922 of
Audio corresponding to the played tuned channel may be picked up by microphone 891 as part of or mixed in with the intended speech input by a subscriber wishing to control DHCT 14 with speech commands. For purposes of separation from a received speech signal to be machine-interpreted to effect control of the DHCT 14 from audio corresponding to the played tuned channel in the past that infiltrated input to the microphone 891, the buffered samples of program audio signal equal to an interval of time from the present to the immediate past. In one embodiment, the procedure of separation of the audio signal corresponding to the played tuned channel in the past is performed for a plurality of different offsets corresponding to small time shifts to obtain a respective set of distinct background-audio-separated speech signals. Each background-audio-separated speech signal is obtained by employing a respective time-shifted delay buffer. As a non-limiting example of the respective time-shifted delay buffers,
As a non-limiting example, a circular buffer comprising overlapping Delay Buffers may be implemented by storing data in a designated section of memory 922 spanning consecutive memory locations that are addressable with contiguous increasing addresses. While accessing the contiguous circular buffer, if the highest addressable location of memory is reached, the subsequent memory access is performed at the first memory location of the section of memory 922 designated to the circular buffer. A time-shift, or a delay in start time, from a second Delay Buffer relative to a first Delay Buffer is performed by assigning a memory address, or pointer, to the start of second Delay Buffer that supersedes the memory address that demarcates the start Delay Buffer within the circular buffer concept.
Continuing with the components of the audio processing loop 927, the DSP 945 features an architecture comprising of on-chip integration of various subcomponents and dedicated data paths between some of the subcomponents for efficiency in computation. An instruction set within the DSP 945 allows software programs to exercise the functionality of subcomponents in DSP 945 in a number of possible ways. Multiple subcomponents may be exercised in parallel or in a specific sequence to obtain high performance for a respective desired computation. Furthermore, the DSP 945 is preferably designed with its instruction set tailored to exercise its subcomponents for high performance execution of numerical intensive operations as required for digital signal processing. In one embodiment, the DSP 945 may be a general-purpose microprocessor controlled by software or firmware, and/or a programmable logic array, and/or an application-specific integrated circuit with special-purpose hardware logic for performing special computations typical of digital signal processing.
The R/W Memory 922 serves as a repository for input and output of data between the components or subcomponents of audio processing loop 927. For instance, digitized speech samples output by bandpass filter 933 are stored in memory 922 and thereafter input to a signal separator 947. The memory 922 can also be used to store audio data awaiting processing, to store intermediate results and internal state information during computations, and to queue output data. The signal separator 947 element may be a separate circuit working in communication with DSP processor 945 or a task implemented in one or more of the subcomponents of DSP 945 as an executable program. Signal separation 947 and/or DSP 945 effect separation of one or more time-shifted versions of the past program audio signal stored in outgoing audio buffer in memory 922 from the decoded speech signal stored in incoming audio buffer in memory 922. All time-shifted versions of the past program audio signal can be caused to be separated from the decoded speech signal. Each modified signal in the set of separated signals is stored in memory 922 and considered as an input candidate containing a user command. Each input candidate is considered to find the best match in a dictionary of set of commands stored within the memory 949 in DHCT 14. A best match from the set of separated signals is determined according to matching criteria, and a visual display confirming the match may be presented to the user.
As explained above, control commands are carried in control stream multiplexed in transport stream received at DHCT 14 via the wireless receiver process discussed with respect to
Incoming audio buffer in memory 922 is filled at a start location with data received pursuant to reception of a start control command and no additional data is written to incoming audio buffer after reception of the stop control command. Such content in input audio buffer represents a valid voice-activated command from user. Upon reception and interpretation of a no active-speech frame command in the audio processing loop 927 that is interspersed during a valid voice-activated command from user, the speech decoder 920 stores information in R/W memory 922 specifying the start and length of time of the no-active speech frame. Processing such as filtering and signal separation, in the audio processing loop 927 is omitted for the corresponding duration of the no-active speech frame. Thus the consumption of data from the outgoing audio buffer containing the tuned channel's program audio is advanced by an amount of samples equal to the duration of no active-speech frame.
In one alternate embodiment, rather than effecting band pass filter 933 prior to signal separation 947 to filter the human speech part of the RF spectrum, signal separation 947 is performed first and then secondly by the band pass filter 933. Regardless of the order in which band pass filter 933 is performed, the band pass filter 933 may include noise filtering, as an alternative to speech spectrum filtering or as an additional option. Furthermore, the bandpass filter 933 may implement noise filtering to an extent or amount so programmed in the DSP 945 that is based on knowledge of the extent or amount of filtering performed by filter 906 in remote control device 480.
At this point, one or more of the time-shifted versions of separated and/or filtered speech streams stored in incoming audio buffer in memory 922 undergo segmentation by a speech segmentation component 955 to obtain a sequence of speech segments. The speech segmentation component 955 may be implemented as a separate component or in communication with DSP 945. Alternatively, speech segmentation component 955 may be a programmed software task in DSP 945. Speech segments output by speech segmentation component 955 are stored in sequential order in memory such that they can be compared with stored programmed voice commands in dictionary stored in memory 949 by a comparison module 935. In one embodiment comparison module is implemented by DSP 945 and in another embodiment by processor 444. In the former embodiment, speech segments output by speech segmentation component 945 are stored in R/W memory 922. If the processor 444 performs the comparison, speech segments output by speech segmentation component 945 are stored in sequential order in RAM 452. To effect this comparison, each respective speech segment of a candidate processed speech stream (i.e., the speech stream received from memory) is correlated to the digitized version of every entry stored in a dictionary stored in system memory 949. Each entry of the dictionary comprises one or more speech segments. Preferably, non-volatile memory such as FLASH memory 451 is employed to store dictionary (needs added to
A matching algorithm is at the basis of finding the best dictionary entry. As a non-limiting example, a segment or sequence of segments from an input candidate stream can be matched respectively to a segment of a dictionary entry or a sequence of segments comprising a dictionary entry, in whole or in part. The matching operation yields a certainty score indicative of the closeness in match between two sequence of segments, each with the same number of segments. Non-limiting examples of matching scores include the mean-square error between two sequences or the sum of the absolute differences between the segments. Preferably, digital cross correlation as known to practitioners of digital signal processing, is performed. As discussed in greater detail below, the dictionary comprises segments stored therein during a training session with a user, such that the user's voice for various commands is stored in the dictionary for later comparison to user speech. Each unique dictionary entry or ordered combinations of dictionary entries has an associated command to effect control or interactive navigation of applications or services in DHCT 14.
More specifically, each time-shifted version of the processed speech signal comprises a sequence of speech segments that serves as a candidate to be matched to dictionary entries. Under processor 444 execution and access to and communication with memory, the comparison component 935 effects the procedure of finding the best match between the time-shifted versions of the processed speech signals and the dictionary entries. The highest matching score for a candidate sequence of speech segments is found by comparing the matching scores obtained for each dictionary entry. Thus, the best matching score for the best match for each respective time-shifted version of the processed speech signal is stored in memory. Then, the maximum of all stored matching scores is obtained by comparison. If the maximum value of all matching scores is above a threshold value, and is higher than the matching score from other candidate stream segments, the candidate stream represents a valid user command and the DHCT processor 444 instructs the DHCT's navigator 942 to perform the desired command via the action module 938. Additionally, the DHCT 14 can forward the user commands over networks to which the DHCT 14 may be connected so that the user can control other remote-controllable elements, such as other home electronic devices (e.g., digital video disk players, video cassette recorders, home security systems, thermostats, lights, and the like). If the matching score is not above the threshold, all of the candidate segments are ignored. Lastly, if more than one candidate segment's best matching score is above the threshold, and has an equal matching score to other candidate segments, the user is queried via a graphical user interface to confirm the command or to repeat the command.
The DSP 945 illustrated in
As an alternative embodiment to the use of a microphone which captures voice at a remote control device and transmits the voice to a DHCT, the present invention may also be implemented such that the microphone separately resides from a remote control device. According to one aspect of the present invention the microphone resides in the DHCT. Additionally, although it is preferred that the signals transmitted from the remote control device to the DHCT be in digital form, as described in detail above, analog methods analogous to those used in residential portable telephones, such as amplitude modulated RF carriers, frequency modulated RF carriers, and digital or analog spread spectrum RF carriers, may likewise be used. Moreover, privacy-enhancing techniques such as encryption and/or digital spread spectrum technology, as are well known in the art, may be applied to the microphone signals to avoid interference with nearby communications or intentional and/or unintentional eavesdropping.
V. Training Procedure
The dictionary 458 entries comprise of a digitized sequence of speech segments, each uniquely associated with a command for navigation or control of DHCT 14. Dictionary entries and associated command association are preferably constructed during a user training procedure. Upon user input with input device 480, the processor 444 effects display 448 of a graphical user interface (GUI), preferably a set-up menu, via output system onto the display 441. The interaction between GUI display and user input proceeds by user entering a second input to select one of a plurality of selectable options in displayed settings menu in GUI. Upon selecting training for speech control navigation among the displayed options, the training procedure to construct or modify the dictionary and command associations for voice-activation control of DHCT 14 is entered.
Immediately after entering training procedure, either the processor 444 or the DSP 945, or both in communication with each other, effect mute of tuned program audio playback by disabling input of module 953 or program audio decoder 598. The DSP 945 enables audio playback module 953 to receive audio samples from DSP 945. Thereafter, DSP 945 generates pinknoise audio samples and outputs them to audio playback module 953 to activate the pinknoise sound through speakers 930. Although pinknoise sound is emitted by the speakers, tuned program audio is not.
Thereafter, a first screen displayed in a GUI on display 441 instructs the user not to speak and to press a first button, such as “enable microphone” button 893, on input device 480 as the signal to initiate training procedure. Thus, a start control command is transmitted. Thereafter, encoding of speech signal transmission in input device 480 is enabled. Filtering by filter 906 at input device is set with settings for band-pass-filtering of pinknoise. Pinknoise is typically a buzz sound with specific audio signal characteristics that facilitates measurement of distance from speaker to DHCT 14. Therefore, the process 897 described with reference to
Generation of pink noise output through speakers 930 is effected with pulses of different durations (that is, an on-state or buzz state), preferably interspersed by intervals of same time duration (that is, an off-state). Initially, the pinknoise pulse is emitted with a long on-state. In one alternate embodiment, the off-state is transmitted as a no-active speech frame. The processor 444 or DSP 945 employ the timer 590 to record time in memory 922 and to measure the time between emission and reception of the signal and in this manner the delay between audio emission by the DHCT 14 and its return to the DHCT 14 is estimated. The actual delay time estimated varies with the distance between the input device 480 and the DHCT 14. Therefore, according to one aspect of the invention the actual distance calculation is irrelevant.
At the end of emission of the initial long pinknoise pulse, the DSP's 945 first record of time in memory 922 is effected upon termination. Immediately thereafter, the DSP 945 starts analysis of incoming decoded audio signal stored in incoming audio buffer in memory 922 to detect the absence of pinknoise. Upon detecting absence of pinknoise in the decoded audio signal by detecting a significant reduction in the value of the audio samples (or similarly by detecting a significant reduction in the signal's energy), the DSP 945 records a second time in the memory 922. The difference between the second and first recorded times provides as an initial delay estimate incurred between emitted audio via speakers 930 and reception of the same audio in DHCT 14.
Thereafter, the DSP 945 effects start and termination of generation of varied-length pinknoise pulses 925 and records their respective start and stop times. Likewise, the DSP 945 records the start and termination of the incoming pinknoise pulses received via receiver pipeline 925. Using the initial delay estimate as a guide to match an incoming pulse to the correspond outgoing pulse, and using knowledge of the unique duration of a pulse during this second phase of pinknoise pulse emission, the DSP 945 computes additional delay estimates to refine the overall delay estimate and tolerance. During this refinement phase, DSP 945 matches pulses and computes their start time delay and stop time delay. The difference in times become estimates of the roundtrip delay between DHCT 14 and the remote control device 480. The DSP 945 performs to obtain the average of all roundtrip delay estimates and also computes the standard deviation among all estimates to be used as tolerance.
Therefore, buffering of program audio as previously described can be honed in on a time-shift delay centered at the estimated average roundtrip delay with the pinknoise emission training. A small number of positive and negative time-shifts from the estimated average roundtrip delay are employed as tolerance values. The tolerance can be based to a certain number of standard deviations away from the average. The incorporation of tolerance serves to overcome for errors in the delay estimation and to allow for alternate location of the input device 480 in the future during regular operation. Hence, the time-shifted versions of the past program audio stored in circular buffer in the memory 922 reflects the calculated delay and error tolerance. In an alternate embodiment, error tolerance in calculated delay is employed for cancellation of room reverberation effects. As a result, significant audio interference may be separated from the digital speech signal received from the remote control device 480. Based on the difference in amplitude between the samples of pinknoise audio received and their respective emitted versions stored in the outgoing audio buffer, the DSP 945 proceeds to compute an estimate of signal degradation for the outgoing audio program. An estimate of signal degradation 951 is stored in memory 922 and used during regular operation to assist in processing of the incoming audio signal in audio processing loop 927.
Reminding the user to continue not to speak via displayed GUI presentation, program audio decode and playback is enabled by activating the decoder 598 and playback components 953. Either or both filter 906 or filter 933, in input device 480 and DHCT 14, respectively, are set to settings to filter out ambient noise. The program audio is buffered in outgoing audio buffer in the memory 922. During this part of the training, the estimated delay is employed to compare the transmitted program audio with the version that propagated back to DHCT 14. It should be noted that the program audio was picked up by the microphone 891, encoded and transmitted as described with reference to
During the subsequent phase of the training procedure, without emission of pinknoise pulses and with program audio muted as explained above, the user is asked to speak certain words through the presentation of a displayed GUI. The GUI may present a list of predetermined words be asked to speak any word the user wishes to become voice-activation commands. Both filtering, at filter 906 of the remote control device 480 and filter 933 at DHCT 14, are set to band pass human speech signal. The user may be asked to speak the same word multiple times to obtain an averaged version or different versions of the same word to be stored in the dictionary 458.
The user may be asked whether user wishes more than one word associated with the current voice-activated command being trained. Hence, the training procedure allows for a sequence of one or more spoken words to be associated with a single voice-activated command. The user is then asked to enter input to select a machine-state (or navigation step) representing an action in DHCT 14 for which the user wishes to associate the current word (or set of words) for voice-activation command during regular operation in future. The user may be asked whether user wishes more than one action or command to be associated with the current word (or set of words) for the voice-activated command being trained. Hence, the training procedure allows for a sequence of one or more actions to be performed in DHCT 14 to be associated with a voice-activated command. Alternatively, they can be associated with a sequence of one or more spoken words.
For each voice-activated command, an entry is stored in dictionary 458 in memory 451. Each dictionary entry comprises of one or more versions of the user spoken word or set of words to be recognized as the voice-activated command. Additionally, each dictionary entry has an association to one or more actions to be implemented in the DHCT 14 upon interpretation of a voice-activated command. In an alternate embodiment, the training procedure associates one of multiple dictionaries with each respective user from a plurality of users that undergo the training procedure. A user may need to notify the DHCT 14 with a voice-activated command the user's identity. Hence, a user's identity, such as user's name, is also trained during the training procedure and further associated with one of a plurality of user dictionaries. Alternatively, a user enters user's identity through user input, key strokes on the remote control device 480, by navigating through displayed GUI or menus and a user's dictionary remains effective throughout the future until changed.
It should be emphasized that the above-described embodiments of the present invention, particularly any “preferred embodiments” are merely possible examples of the implementations, merely set forth for a clear understanding of the principles of the invention. Any variations and modifications may be made to the above-described embodiments of the invention without departing substantially from the spirit of the principles of the invention. All such modifications and variations are intended to be included herein within the scope of the disclosure and present invention and protected by the following claims.
Many modifications and other embodiments of the invention will come to mind to one skilled in the art to which this invention pertains having the benefit of the teachings presented in the foregoing descriptions and the associated drawings. Therefore, it is to be understood that the invention is not to be limited to the specific embodiments disclosed and that modifications and other embodiments are intended to be included within the scope of the appended claims. Although specific terms are employed herein, they are used in a generic and descriptive sense only and not for purposes of limitation.
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